University installs birth control vending machines

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The University of California at Davis is the latest school to offer students the opportunity to gain access to birth control quickly and anonymously from a vending machine, called “Wellness to Go.”

Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and Pomona College in Claremont, California, have already installed the machines, which also offer the morning-after pill known as Plan B.

Students at UC Davis returned from spring break to find the machine already installed in the school’s Activities and Recreation Center. The machine also dispenses condoms, pregnancy tests, tampons and over-the-counter medication, such as Advil.

“I believe most of the college students are sexually active on [the] college campus, which means we should have more resources and more talk on these issues, decreasing the stigma,” said senior Parteek Singh, 21. Working with the school’s health services office and campus stores, Singh has spent the past two years trying to get the vending machine installed on campus. “This is a big college town. We should have these resources.”

The idea was originally rejected by school officials who suggested selling Plan B at the student bookstore, instead.

“Students already don’t feel comfortable buying it. … Imagine buying it from another student,” Singh pointed out. “That’s problematic.”

Some fellow students have thanked Singh for his advocacy, and students from other universities have contacted him to ask for his help in getting similar machines on their campuses.

“I really value the anonymity of having a vending machine,” Georgia Savage, a member of the Associated Students of UC Davis, told reporters. “A lot of students like the judgment-free space and don’t have to feel the pressure of interacting with people.”

Other students worry that the vending machine sends an irresponsible message. “It is promoting, like, ‘Oh, hey, go and have unsafe sex because then you have a backup option and it’s going to be cheaper than if you just want to go to a drugstore,’” commented student Jordan Herrera.

In most cases, the vending machine contraceptives are cheaper to buy than the same product in a pharmacy.

“Every college should look into this,” Singh said.

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